Friday, August 3, 2012

Succumb to the Lure

The surface of things is deceiving. Seeming can hide beauty, pain or consuming power.

On the surface of it, The Lure of Dangerous Women is a trifling thing: seventy-odd simple pages filled with black symbols and white pages that we see every day. On the surface of it, this is the kind of thing that I barrel through in less than an hour. On the surface of it, this is simply another collection of short genre fiction of which there is an embarrassing surfeit. But this book is alive, a breathing, writhing thing that grips you with ever turn of the page, that entices you along like a pied piper. It is not a pleasant ride; it is terrifying and erotic, icy and scalding, messy and precise, all at once.

It took me three days to finish this book. I had to put it down every other story, surfacing to breathe. I had to walk away and let its characters talk to me some more, let the shadowy cling of their adventures become brittle so that I might brush it off and begin my next journey anew, without the weight of the their sexy, horrifying pull.

All of the women in these stories are dangerous in different ways. These are not Ripleys and Amazons; they are not all sirens and femme fatales. Rather, they are fully-realized characters, at once sympathetic and wholly themselves. There is as much pain as power, and many of them are so strong as to push past simple binaries of dominance and submission (sexual, political or otherwise) to offer themselves as sacrifice, or even just a part of themselves, for the good of others. There is no bowing involved, but an entirely self-possessed decision. These are the kinds of heroines we need more of.

A very thorough review might walk you step by step through each of the seven offerings, but I'd like to focus on a few highlights. "Trill" is a study in disturbing subtly, taking a familiar trope and turning upon itself. A dark version of the pied piper is only the starting point; it dips and weaves its song into dark and daring places that set the tone of this collection. "Seed" and "One Woman Town" are terrific examples of worlds that are at once alien and accessible, offering a fantastic reality with its own lexicon, its own culture and sets of ideas, but one that also immediately draws us in with both wonder and lust tinged with the fear of Germain's razor-sharp observation.

For it is Germain's style, flexible, expressive and keen, that ties all of these disparate tales together. Make no doubt, these are imaginative stories of terror that are equally very sexy; but they are also stylish bits of prose, a style that engages and engrosses, that pulls you in with a siren's song that can drown you.

Shanna Germain's latest collection, published by Wayzgoose Press, is heartily recommended reading for those seeking something extraordinary. Bring your red wine for the libido, your teddy bear for your fear and your shotgun for protection. And even still, you will succumb to The Lure of Dangerous Women.